Victoria Announced It Will Decriminalise Sex Work And Finally Treat It Like Any Other Industry

It's a landmark move that will help destigmatise sex work and make the industry much safer.

Sex work

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Victoria has just announced it will decriminalise sex work, whether it be through self-employment, small employers, or large companies.

This is an important move towards not only destigmatising sex work, but allowing the industry to be regulated through the same business legislation as all others. These changes come from a review led by MP Fiona Patten, which started back in November 2019.

Over the coming two years, new reforms will be established to increase the safety of sex workers and improve their access to government health and justice services. Consensual sex work will no longer be an offence and the Sex Work Act 1994 will be repealed.

Sex workers will have more agency to choose where they provide services, the restrictions on advertising sex work will be reviewed, public health and anti-discrimination legislation will be updated, and sex work will be regulated through existing agencies and legislation.

The changes recognise that the previous system put sex workers at risk of harm.

Under the Sex Work Act 1994, Victorian sex workers had to operate a legalised model that included a licensing system, meaning those who were working without a license or were doing street-based work were breaking the law, discouraging some from seeking support and being denied basic rights and entitlements. But the decriminalisation seeks to make sex work safer.

The Minister for Consumer Affairs Melissa Horne highlighted that every Victorian deserves to feel safe in their place of work. “Decriminalisation will ensure that sex work is safe work and go a long way towards breaking down the stigma sex workers continue to experience,” said Horne.

“The current laws create massive barriers to sex workers ability to access sexual health rights, justice and basically autonomy and dignity.”

Jules Kim, CEO of sex workers association Scarlet Alliance, welcomes the move by Premier Daniel Andrew’s government, but says it is critical and long overdue reform.

“These are reforms that we’ve been pushing for for a very long time together with Vixen,” Kim told Junkee.

“The current laws create massive barriers to sex workers ability to access sexual health rights, justice and basically autonomy and dignity. So, it’s really great that they are finally paying attention and have heard the evidence and are moving forward to to do that.”

Kim notes that in previous reforms, decriminalisation actually resulted in the criminalisation of migrant and street-based sex workers. Under the new changes, “Criminal offences will no longer apply to street-base sex work in most places.”

“We’ve seen that happen in previous campaigns to decriminalise sex work, where… unfortunately, it’s resulted in the criminalisation of migrant workers and street-based workers … We hope that that the Victorian government continues to heed the evidence and that doesn’t happen in this instance.”

The Victorian Government is inviting feedback to the decriminalisation reforms.